Great Writing Leads to Worship

Notes from the Tilt-a-WhirlIf you ever read N.D. Wilson’s book, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl (and I’d encourage the endeavor), you’ll probably have trouble describing it. It’s unlike any other book I’ve read. In places, this is frustrating. I suspect this is part of Wilson’s design.

It’s not my intention to describe the content of the book now but rather the effect. You see, lots of books and authors impress me, make me think, even inspire me. But Wilson accomplished something different, something higher—he made me worship. This is certainly part of his design.

This might be due to my own circumstances and temperament, even my experiences. But this book might just have the same effect on you. Two longer quotations from the book’s final chapter appear below. These especially pointed my heart and desires toward God. I know this is part of His design.

We go into the ground, where the moss will feed on us and others will be stacked on top. We go into church floors and graveyards behind grocery stores. We go into the sea and the snow. We are devoured—by each other, by the earth, by time, by cancers and confusion, by the spinning of this sphere as it runs its balanced laps.

We are in Winter, where the light dies and blood runs cold.

But we are not forgotten. Wet, ripped from the trees and trampled, we will not be lost, for we are His words, and when His voice calls, we will come.

Offstage, there is another greater stage.

Come, let us grow old like fishermen. Let us sweeten the air with songs while we fade. Let us die. Winter cannot hold us. Let us go into the ground, and our faces will find the sun. Let us ride the eruption of Easter. — pages 196–197

And this is how the book ends. You might need to read the whole book to feel the impact of the final line, but this is too good not to share.

We will hear the angels sing. We will be the sheep. We will be made new and find ourselves standing in a garden. We will be handed bodies and shovels and joy.

No tree will be prohibited.

Blister your hands. Tend to the ants. Push the shadows back. Sing. Make a garden of the world.

We will laugh and carve FINIS on the earth. We will carve it on the moon. We will look to the Voice, to the Singer, the Painter, the Poet, the One born in a barn, the One with holes in His hands and oceans in His eyes, and on that day, we will know—

The story has begun.

And we will rake the leaves. — page 197

I loved reading this book, not just because it made me think, and not just because it lead me to worship. It reminded me that great writing (ideas and craft in one package) honors God because it imitates God. Living in His art, image-bearers glorify the Giver by creating art in His image.


Disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through this link.

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Natural Desires and Spiritual Desires

I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about prayer, particularly in the context of small group Bible studies. I hope to have more to say about this in the near future, but for now I wanted to share a quote I found helpful.

Found in the midst of John Piper’s helpful book When I Don’t Desire God, this quote draws the distinction between natural desires and spiritual ones. I’m challenged by this to consider both how my prayers reflect my desires and whether my desires are the same as those of an unbeliever.

Most people, before their prayers are soaked in Scripture, simply bring their natural desires to God. In other words, they pray the way an unbeliever would pray who is convinced that God might give him what he wants: health, a better job, safe journeys, a prosperous portfolio, successful children, plenty of food, a happy marriage, a car that works, a comfortable retirement, etc. None of these is evil. They’re just natural. You don’t have to be born again to want any of these. Desiring them—even from God—is no evidence of saving faith. So if these are all you pray for, there is a deep problem. Your desires have not yet been changed to put the glory of Christ at the center.

But when you saturate your mind with the Christ-exalting Word of God and turn it into prayer, your desires and your prayers become spiritual. That is, they are shaped by the Holy Spirit into God-centered, Christ-exalting prayers. The glory of Christ, and the name of God, and the spiritual well-being of people, and the delight you have in knowing Jesus—these become your dominant concerns and your constant requests. You still pray for health and marriage and job and journeys, but now what you want to happen is that, in all these, Christ will be exalted. This changes the pattern and passion of your prayers. Your prayer for a journey is not merely that it be safe, but that all along the way your joy would be in God and that he would shine through you. Your prayer for your job is not merely that it be stable and peaceful and prosperous, but that it truly serves the needs of society and that in all your labor and all your relationships your joy in Christ and your love for people would make a name for Jesus. — John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, pp.165–166

The role of the love of God in preaching

I’m currently in the middle of reading volume 1 of Iain Murray’s fabulous biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The opinions of Dr. Lloyd-Jones on the essential work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners are as relevant today as they were in the late 1920’s.

Lloyd-Jones was preaching in an area where theological liberalism was becoming popular. Church could be seen as nothing more than a social club, and “the Doctor” took a few opportunities in his own messages to critique this approach to preaching.

Please permit an extended quotation:

‘There is something even worse than that about the situation as I see it, and that is that present-day preaching does not even annoy men, but leaves them precisely where they were, without a ruffle and without the slightest disturbance…The church is regarded as a sort of dispensary where drugs and soothing mixtures are distributed and in which everyone should be eased and comforted. And the one theme of the church must be “the love of God”. Anyone who happens to break these rules and who produces a disturbing effect upon members of his congregation is regarded as an objectionable person…’

Judged in those terms, he went on, Christ himself must be found blameworthy:

‘If ever anyone knew the love of God, if ever “the love of God” was preached and understood by anyone, that one was Jesus Christ. Yet what was the effect He produced upon His congregations? Did all go home from the service smiling and happy, and feeling very self-satisfied and complacent? Was His perfect ministry one in which no one was offended and at which no one took umbrage? Do His services suggest the type so popular today—the building with “the dim religious light” where nice hymns are sung, nice prayers are offered, and a fine and cultured “short” address is delivered? Look to the pages of the New Testament and see the answer.’ – p.207, quote from Lloyd-Jones taken from the introduction to a sermon on John 8:32

And later:

‘…I say, with due reverence and consideration, unless we realise our deep and desperate need of it, the love of God is of no value to us and will make no difference to our lives. It thus behoves all of us, as we preach, not only to give our testimony as to the love of God towards us, but also to emphasise the equally great truth that all who have not felt a need of it are outside it.’
– p.208 from a sermon on John 9:25, given January 15, 1928

I love that final line: “all who have not felt a need of [the love of God] are outside it.”


Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (3/5/13)

Chapter 12 of Jerry Bridges’s book The Pursuit of Holiness is entitled “Holiness in Spirit.” In this chapter Bridges addresses some of the sins which are of an inherently internal nature. I want to share two quotes today, one regarding bitterness and the second regarding a critical spirit.

Another defilement of spirit that has shipwrecked many Christians is bitterness. Bitterness arises in our hearts when we do not trust in the sovereign rule of God in our lives. (p.120, 1996 edition)

And shortly after this Bridges writes this regarding a critical spirit:

We are quick to see—and to speak of—the faults of others, but slow to see our own needs. How sweetly we relish the opportunity to speak critically of someone else—even when we are unsure of our facts. (p.122, 1996 edition)

The quote about bitterness struck me especially hard. How many of our internal grumblings and resentments would melt away if we only trusted God!

How have you experienced bitterness or a critical spirit in your life? Have you developed strategies to fight against these sins that you’d be willing to share?


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (1/21/13)

In Chapter 10 (“The Place of Personal Discipline”) of Jerry Bridges’s The Pursuit of Holiness, he follows a call for discipline in the area of Scripture intake with some thoughts on Scripture meditation.

To meditate on the Scriptures is to think about them, turning them over in our minds, and applying them to our life’s situations. (p.99, 1996 edition)

The objective of our meditation is application—obedience to the Scriptures. This too requires discipline. Obeying the Scriptures usually requires change in our patterns of life. Because we are sinful by nature, we have developed sinful patters, which we call habits. (p.100, 1996 edition)

The most important part of this process is the specific application of the Scripture to specific life situations. We are prone to vagueness at this point because committment to specific actions makes us uncomfortable. (p.101, 1996 edition)

Have you spent time meditating on the Scriptures (not merely reading/studying them)? Do you have any benefits or advice to share about your experience? Use the comments!


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (1/19/13)

The tenth chapter of Jerry Bridges’s The Pursuit of Holiness is entitled “The Place of Personal Discipline.” Not unexpectedly, Bridges uses this chapter to discuss the relationship between personal discipline and our journey toward holiness.

Bridges starts off the chapter by discussing our impatience (and naivety) in striving for holiness.

Jay Adams put his finger on the problem when he says, “You may have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing…We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we’ll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn’t come that way.”

Adams goes on to show that the way to obtain godliness is through Christian discipline. (p.96, 1996 edition)

After discussing the need for discipline, Bridges describes the areas in which we need discipline. The chief area is the area of Scripture intake.

So we see that we must discipline our lives for a regular healthy diet of the Word of God. We need a planned time each day for reading or studying the Bible. Every Christian who makes progress in holiness is a person who has disciplined his life so that he spends regular time in the Bible. There simply is no other way.

Satan will always battle us at this point. He will try to persuade us that we are too sleepy in the morning, too busy during the day, and too tired at night. It seems there is never a suitable time for the Word of God. This means we must discipline ourselves to provide this time in our daily schedules. (p.98, 1996 edition)

It is simply stated, but difficult in practice at times, isn’t it? If we do not plan to read the Bible, we likely will not read the Bible.

How is your diet of the Word of God at the moment?


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (1/18/13)

Today I’ll share the last of the quotes from Chapter 9 (“Putting Sin to Death”) of Jerry Bridges’s book The Pursuit of Holiness. These quotes related to Bridges’s insistence that commitment is a necessary ingredient in the process of putting sin to death.

The Apostle John said, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin” (1 John 2:1). The whole purpose of John’s letter, he says, is that we not sin. One day as I was studying this chapter I realized that my personal life’s objective regarding holiness was less than that of John’s. He was saying, in effect, “Make it your aim not to sin.” As I thought about this, I realized that deep within my heart my real aim was not to sin very much. I found it difficult to say, “Yes, Lord, from here on I will make it my aim not to sin.” I realized God was caling me that day to a deeper level of commitment to holiness than I had previously been willing to make. (p.93)

Are we willing to commit ourselves to the practice of holiness without exceptions? There is no point in praying for victory over temptation if we are not willing to make a commitment to say no to it. (p.93)

We see here that Bridges is forcing us to consider how seriously we take the command to be holy. Are we content to “cut down” on the sin in our lives, or are we willing to do whatever it takes to throw it away?

How has God used the Scriptures to impress the need for holiness on you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (1/17/13)

In Chapter 8 (“Obedience—Not Victory”) of The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges discusses two ways of stripping sin of its vitality and strength. The first was conviction, and over the past two days we seen some quotes from Bridges on this point. The second ingredient Bridges advocates is commitment.

Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved.

We have the “just one more time” syndrome. We will take just one more lustful look, eat just one more rich dessert before starting our diet, watch just one more television program before sitting down to our Bible study. In all of this we are postponing the day of commitment, the day when we say to sin, “Enough!” (pp.91,92, 1996 edition)

Solomon tells us that the eyes of man are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20). One more lustful look or one more piece of pie never satisfies. In fact, quite the opposite takes place. Every time we say yes to temptation, we make it harder to say no the next time. (p.92, 1996 edition)

Bridges’s caution about “dallying” with sin are particularly cutting to me. What about you? What has the relationship between commitment and holiness been like in your experience?


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (1/16/13)

Yesterday, we started to ponder the need for conviction from the Scriptures if we are to put sin to death. Today, we will consider another quote from Chapter 9 (“Putting Sin to Death”) of Jerry Bridges’s book The Pursuit of Holiness. Here Bridges shares his formula, borrowed from one of his friends, for developing conviction in areas not clearly addressed in Scripture.

  • “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Question 1: Is it helpful—physically, spiritually, and mentally?
  • “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?
  • “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Question 3: Does it hurt others?
  • “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Question 4: Does it glorify God? (p.88, 1996 edition)

These have been helpful guidelines for me to consider; do you find them helpful? Are there ways that you develop conviction from the Scriptures that you’d like to share?


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.

Book Quote (1/15/13)

Chapter 9 of Jerry Bridges’s book The Pursuit of Holiness is called “Putting Sin to Death.” In this chapter Bridges says that there are two things that must be done to “destroy the power and vitality” of sin. I’ll post about the first of these today and the second of these later.

Bridges writes that the first action to be taken in putting sin to death is that we must develop conviction, particularly conviction in specific areas of obedience.

These convictions are developed through exposure to the Word of God. Our minds have far too long been accustomed to the world’s values. Even after we become Christians, the world around us constantly seeks to conform us to its value system. We are bombarded on every side by temptations to indulge our sinful natures. (p.85, 1996 edition)

Obedience is the pathway to holiness, but it is only as we have His commands that we can obey them. God’s Word must be so strongly fixed in our minds that it becomes the dominant influence in our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. One of the most effective ways of influencing our minds is through memorizing Scripture. (p.86, 1996 edition)

This is the way we develop conviction—by bringing God’s Word to bear on specific situations that arise in our lives and determining God’s will in that situation from the Word. (p.87, 1996 edition)

Tomorrow I’ll share what Bridges writes about developing conviction in areas which are not specifically addressed by Scripture.

What about you? How have you pictured the relationship between your convictions and your ability to fight against temptation? I’d love to hear about it.


I don’t know how regular this feature will be, but I thought I’d share some quotes from the books I’m reading. I present these with the understanding that I do not necessarily endorse all of an author’s positions in this particular book or in his/her writing in general. These are quotes which I found interesting, provocative, well-written, or worthy of sharing in some other way.



Full disclosure: the links to Amazon.com in this blog post are affiliate links, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through one of these links.